Category Archives: BigDub’s BIG Soccer Reports
We had to wait a little bit longer than expected, but the January transfer window in the English Premier League provided the drama we are used to seeing. Records were broken as English clubs shelled out over 200 million pounds combined in all transfers, with a majority of that money being spent on the final day. Time to take a look at who came away as the window’s biggest winners and biggest losers.
Chelsea: The Blues did most of their work on the final day of the window making January’s biggest move, a 50 million pound signing of Liverpool’s star Spanish striker Fernando Torres. Yes he was expensive, but the man they called The Talisman at Anfield now gives Chelsea the best attacking talent in the league. Together with Didier Drogba expect Torres to fire Chelsea up the table in a hurry. The Blues currently sit fourth but with their new striker will expect to be competing for the title before all is said and done. This news certainly was not met with positive reception from Manchester Untied. The League leaders currently remain undefeated but have to face the new look Blues twice before season’s end. Chelsea also managed to sign Brazilian defender David Luiz from Portuguese side Benfica in a deal worth well over 20 million pounds. With these two marquee signings one has little choice but to declare Chelsea the biggest winners in this transfer window.
West Ham: West Ham owners David Gold and David Sullivan promised to make moves to help the Hammers avoid relegation and in January they did just that. Avram Grant’s sight landed the strike power they were looking for, securing Demba Ba’s (pictured above) signature from German side Hoffenheim and getting Ireland captain Robbie Keane on loan from Tottenham Hotspur with a permanent move guaranteed in the summer should West Ham avoid relegation. Signing fullback Wayne Bridge on loan from Manchester City is another nice move for the London club, though his first few performances have left something to be desired. West Ham now have the players they need to help avoid relegation. Considering that the teams around them in the table did very little in terms of adding players, West Ham’s hopes of Premier League survival took a huge step in the right direction this January.
Blackpool: The seasider’s best move wasn’t a move at all. Tangerine fans will be excited knowing that Ian Holloway stayed true to his word that captain Charlie Adam would not be leaving the club. Management rebuffed several large bids from top clubs to ensure their player of the season thus far would go nowhere. Liverpool were perhaps the club who pursued Adam the hardest throughout January, ultimately producing offers that did not meet Blackpool’s 14 million pound valuation of the player. Tottenham came in very, very late with a last ditch attempt to sign the Scotland midfielder with an offer believed to be over 10 million pounds, but the move simply came too late for Spurs to secure his signature. Blackpool also managed to sign winger Andy Reid from Sunderland on the window’s last day, strengthening Holloway’s attacking options.
Tottenham Hotspur: Despite their best efforts Spurs were unable to sign the striker they desired. Bids for players including Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, Alvaro Negredo, and Giuseppe Rossi were all turned down. Disorganization and lack of focus on the part of the Spurs management very well might have cost them. Chairman Daniel Levy simply waited too long to negotiate the transfer of some of these names. The bigger issue for Spurs is that the teams against whom they are competing for the fourth spot got better. We have already discussed Chelsea’s moves and Manchester City also made a huge signing, securing Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko from German side Wolfsburg in a deal believed to be worth 27 million pounds. Spurs, in contrast, stood still. Their only signings were a pair of South Africans, winger Steven Pienaar from Everton and defender Bongani Khumalo from South Africa side Supersport United. It will be a tough, uphill battle as Spurs continue to compete for a Champions League place.
Arsenal: The Gunners did even less than their North London rivals in terms of signing players. Arsene Wenger’s lone signing came minutes before the close of the window, as Japanese youngster Ryo Miyaichi was brought in last minute. It has since been revealed that the young forward will immediately begin a loan spell with Dutch side Feyenrood. In essence, then, Wenger signed nobody who will be at Arsenal the remainder of the season. This year looks to be one in which Arsenal can compete for the title until the very end. However, they desperately needed some help in defense and failed to address that issue altogether. In order for the Gunners to remain in the title hunt they are going to have to find some form and maintain it for the long haul, as they have no new blood to make a difference. Given the additions to the clubs around them (mainly Chelsea and City) it would not at all be surprising if Arsenal end the season in fourth.
Everton: Like Arsenal the Toffees signed absolutely nobody in January. Their only headlines this window involved rebuffed offers from Spurs for their captain Phil Neville. Everton were in desperate need of midfield help but decided against any sort of spending. This season has been a difficult one for David Moyes’ side and the January window provided an opportunity to strengthen the squad for a potential push into contention for a Europa League spot. If Everton are to reach such a goal it will be with the current crop of players who, up to this point in the season, have provided disappointing results to say the least. The drop looks highly unlikely. A mid-table finish following a silent transfer window looks probable for a side used to being near the top.
This week, I’ll have an update on how the transfers panned out kits wise. – J
EPL Weekend Update: Jan. 22-23
Match of the Week
Manchester United 5 – Birmingham City 0
Last week we discussed the possibility of a shift in power in the city of Manchester as well as in the whole of the English Premier League. This week it couldn’t be further from the case. Manchester United showed the entire league why they remain unbeaten, in great form, and sitting atop the table. Birmingham City could do nothing to control the overwhelming United attack, Dimitar Berbatov in particular. The Bulgarian continued his blistering form, logging his third hat-trick of the season. Berbatov continues to lead the Premier League in scoring, and his record is showing no signs of slowing. He was joined this week on the score sheet by Nani and the incredible Ryan Giggs. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum is Berbatov’s strike partner, Wayne Rooney. Rooney still has not scored in open play in front of the Old Trafford crowd this season. You have to go back to last march against Liverpool to find his last home strike. However, Rooney’s form has clearly not rubbed off on his teammates. United remain atop the league, two points ahead of Arsenal with a game in hand. The woes continue for Birmingham City. The Blues remain squarely in the battle for relegation. They are only a point ahead of Wigan, who occupy the final relegation spot. The search for a striker continues for manager Alex McLeish. Robbie Keane and Manchester City’s Jo have been linked with Brum, though neither move has materialized. With the transfer window closing soon, McLeish will have to move quickly if he is to secure the signature of a new striker, especially with Cameron Jerome being linked with a move to Stoke City.
EPL Weekend Scoreboard
|Monday, 24 January 2011
Bolton 0-4 Chelsea
|Saturday, 22 January 2011|
|Aston Villa||1-0||Man. City|
Team of the Week
GK: Robinson (Blackburn)
DEF: Neville (Everton)
DEF: Collins (Aston Villa)
DEF: Coloccini (Newcastle)
DEF: Bardsley (Sunderland)
MID: Dempsey (Fulham)
MID: Modric (Tottenham)
MID: Parker (West Ham)
MID: Richardson (Sunderland)
ST: Berbatov (Manchester United)
ST: Van Persie (Arsenal)
How They Stand
EPL Spotlight: The Race for the Top 4
In recent years a debate as to who will finish in the top 4 places in the English Premier League is not one worth having. The traditional “Top 4” (Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea) are always expected to occupy those spots year in, year out. Last year, though, the pattern was broken as Tottenham Hotspur capitalized on Liverpool’s poor season and snatched the final Champions League spot. This season the competition is just as compelling. Manchester City join Spurs as the newcomers to the race. Manchester United and Arsenal appear to be locks at this point, leaving Chelsea, City, and Spurs to fight it out for the final two spots. Who will emerge at the end?
Manchester City: New owner Sheikh Mansour has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the club over the last few seasons. The massive investment is finally starting to pay off. City currently sit 3rd in the table, only one point astray of Arsenal. They boast a wealth of attacking talent highlighted by goal monster Carlos Tevez. The Argentina international boasts 14 league goals, only bested by Dimitar Berbatov. City can also rely on the likes of Mario Balotelli, Adam Johnson, Yaya Toure, James Milner, and new signing Edin Dzeko (pictured) to support Tevez in that category. Huge fixtures still remain for City, none bigger than Feb. 12th against rivals United at Old Trafford. If City can continue their current form they appear to be a lock for a top 4 place. However, Roberto Mancini’s side have shown at times this season that they may lack the chemistry necessary to rise to the top. If the side’s more vocal players like Kolo Toure and Pablo Zabaleta step up and lead the sky’s the limit for the Blues.
Projected Finish: 3rd
Chelsea: Form has been a serious issue for Carlo Ancelloti’s side. Key injuries to players such as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard haven’t helped either. More significant, though, has been the lack of a consistent goal scorer. Drogba (pictured) has not been his normal self and support from the likes of Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou has been limited. At the back injuries have again been the story with Branislav Ivanovic and Alex both experiencing significant bouts on the sideline. That said, this is still Chelsea. They possess the skill and experience necessary to not only finish in the top 4, but to get back in the title race. The key for the Blues is getting healthy. If they can come together and rally down the stretch 4th should be theirs.
Projected Finish: 4th
Tottenham: Spurs have experienced a bad run of form at the worst time possible. A recent loss at Everton and an away draw at Newcastle have seen the Lilywhites drop to fifth in the table, 3 points behind 4th place Chelsea. Spurs finished in wonderful fashion last season, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time. This season they have been just as good with players like Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and Rafael van der Vaart leading the way. The midfielders have provided balance and pace as well as goal scoring. The issue has been up front for Tottenham. Jermain Defoe has not scored in his last 12 matches and Peter Crouch (pictured) has only managed one league goal this season. Spurs are desperate for a striker before the January transfer window ends. Luis Suarez from Ajax and Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano have been the top two targets for manager Harry Redknapp. They are still right in it, but if they fail to capture a new goal scorer Tottenham might be the odd team out in the race for the final Champions League spot.
Projected Finish: 5th
Today, I bring you all a guest contribution, now yes, this is a jersey blog first and foremost, but as you all also know, I am a huge sports fan, so today, I hand the reigns over to fellow sports fan, Max ‘BigDub’ Kurek, a friend of mine from High School, and bring you his spectacular Premier League wrap up for this week, I hope everyone likes what they read – J (and yes, I am currently licking my wounds from going 1-3 in picks this past weekend, I’ll post my Conf. Championship Picks Midweek, until then GO PACKERS!)
EPL Weekend Update: Jan. 15-16
Match of the Week
Manchester City 4 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 3
Manchester City has not won the league title in England since 1968. In the years since this accomplishment, cross-town rivals Manchester United have won eleven. Perhaps this explains why United boast a vast worldwide following, while City only recently, as a result of their massive transfer spending, have started to become a popular name in the European footballing world. However, if Carlos Tevez (pictured) has anything to say about it there will be a shift in power in Manchester in the very near future. The Argentinian striker was on target two more times as City defeated lowly Wolves in one of the weekend’s most exciting matches. Wolves manager Mick McCarthy will be pleased that his side were able to put three past in-form City keeper Joe Hart. However, McCarthy can only shrug at the performance of Tevez. Center-Backs Richard Stearman and Christophe Berra could do very little to stop the former West Ham man, as the City attack ran wild against an ineffective Wolves back line. The Brothers Toure, Kolo and Yaya, two of City’s many recent bank-breaking signings, were also on target for the home side. Ronald Zubar, Kevin Doyle, and Nenad Milijas did the best they could to keep pace with the goal output of City, but in the end it simply was not enough. It’s onward and upward for Roberto Mancini’s side, who find themselves even on points with league leaders Manchester United.
Chelsea 2 – Blackburn Rovers 0: Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka helped a struggling Chelsea grab a much needed three points at home against caretaker manager Steve Kean’s Blackburn Rovers. The win sees Chelsea reclaim the fourth spot, one point in front of Tottenham Hotspur. Blackburn were unable to penetrate the Chelsea defense, thanks in large part to keeper Petr Cech (pictured) who showed once again why he is considered by many to be the league’s top keeper. Chelsea must continue to take maximum points from teams in the bottom half of the table if they are to keep pace with the likes of City, United, and Arsenal.
Stoke City 2 – Bolton Wanderers 0: A huge match for both sides as each are right in the thick of the race for a coveted spot in the Europa League. Stoke were able to prevail thanks to a strong performance from defender Danny Higgenbotham, who was staunch in defense and contributed offensively with a first half goal. Matthew Etherington sealed three points for Tony Pulis’ side with a 64th minute penalty. The sides find themselves even on 30 points, ranking 7th and 8th in the league table, with Bolton ahead on a +3 goal differential, compared to +2 for Stoke.
Wigan 1 – Fulham 1: A matchup of two sides in the bottom five of the league saw each come away with a well deserved point. The Latics went ahead early in the second half with a goal from Hugo Rodallega. Wigan hearts were shattered, however, by a late strike from substitute Andy Johnson, who equalized in the 85th to preserve a point for Mark Hughes’ Fulham side. Both sides remain right in the middle of the relegation battle, with Fulham 15th and Wigan sitting in the final relegation spot at 18th.
West Ham 0 – Arsenal 3: More misery for Avram Grant’s side in this matchup of London clubs. West Ham simply had no answer for Arsenal’s attack. Robin Van Persie showed why he remains one of the top strikers in all of England with two goals in this match, one coming from the penalty spot. Theo Walcott also registered a goal for Arsene Wenger’s men. Arsenal remain in the hunt for a league title, but must display more consistency against the league’s top sides. For West Ham, it would be an incredible achievement to avoid relegation. The Hammers are currently at the bottom of the league table with only 20 points. The days are numbered for former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Grant, who must avoid relegation to save his job, if he even lasts until the end of the season.
West Brom 3 – Blackpool 2: A thoroughly entertaining match between two of the newest Premier League sides. Both West Brom and Blackpool experienced the joy of returning to the top flight in England just this season. It was Roberto Di Matteo’s men who came out on top in this one, however. Late heroics from unsung hero Peter Odemwingie ensured that West Brown secured a much needed home victory. Ian Holloway will be pleased with his team’s effort, having just completed a season double over Liverpool last weekend. These are matches that the Baggies must continue to win if they are to avoid relegation. Blackpool look to be in a much safer spot, as they sit 10th in the table, six points from relegation and with a game in hand.
Tottenham 0 – Manchester United 0: As far as league position, this was the most intriguing matchup of the weekend. Spurs came into this match 4th in the table, 8 points behind leaders United. The home side controlled things throughout, registering 68% possession for the match. United were reduced to ten men with about fifteen minutes remaining as fullback Rafael da Silva was shown red for a second bookable offense by referee Mike Dean. Sir Alex Ferguson will not be pleased at Dean’s decisions, as the second foul appeared to be a free kick and nothing more. Harry Redknapp will be happy that his team grabbed a point, but disappointed knowing that they could have had all three. Luka Modric continued his stellar form in the central midfield for Spurs. Special mention must be given to United defender Nemanja Vidic who again showed why he is widely regarded as the best defender in the league.
Liverpool 2 – Everton 2: The infamous Merseyside Derby did not fail to disappoint. Everton will feel as though they deserved all three points, though the draw perhaps reflected the game better. Liverpool salvaged a point with a late penalty by Dirk Kuyt (His 5th Derby Goal) after Everton keeper Tim Howard dragged down Maxi Rodriguez in the box. Aside from that mistake Howard was stellar, limiting the Reds’ output despite 11 shots on target for the home side. Sylvan Distin and Jermaine Beckford scored goals within 6 minutes of each other to put Everton ahead following the opener from Fernando Torres. Kuyt’s spot kick came in the 68th and earned a much-needed point for struggling Liverpool.
Sunderland 1 – Newcastle 1: Asamoah Gyan continued his torrid pace for Sunderland, scoring a late, 90th minute equalizer for a Sunderland side desperate to compete for a spot in Europe. Newcastle were without top scorer Andy Carroll. Leon Best was chosen to partner with Shola Ameobi in the Magpie’s attack. Kevin Nolan began the scoring with a 52nd strike before Gyan sent the home fans into a frenzy with his late contribution. Newcastle will feel as though three points should have been theirs, while Sunderland will be content with a point after being unable to create anything going forward for much of the match.
Birmingham 1 – Aston Villa 1: Another derby, another draw. One of the league’s most heated rivalries produced a relatively even match. Brum defender Roger Johnson put the home side ahead early in the second half, before defender counterpart James Collins equalized for Villa in the 73rd. Birmingham will rue not taking one of the two great chances they had early on, though will be satisfied that they held on to earn at least a point. The lack of quality in the Villa side is evident. Manager Gerard Houllier must strengthen his side before the end of the transfer window to ensure that Villa avoid the drop and remain in the top division.
Team of the Week (4-4-2)
GK- Cech (Chelsea)
RB- Collins (Aston Villa)
CB- Vidic (Manchester United
CB- Ivanovic (Chelsea)
LB- Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham)
RM- Bentley (Birmingham)
CM- Modric (Tottenham)
CM- Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
LM- Etherington (Stoke)
ST- Tevez (Manchester City
ST- Odemwingie (West Brom)